There’s a lot of joking going around about the Fyre Festival disaster, along with a lot of influencers that weren’t involved with it thanking their lucky stars that they weren’t. But, what people don’t seem to be talking about is the wider affects that are looming in the distance for all influencers.
The thing that made social media influencers so appealing to advertise with originally was the fact that they had the trust of their audience. They were normal down to earth people just like you and me so if they were saying a mascara was great, surely it was great right? Why would they lie?
Then, in the last year or so audiences have become more aware that things aren’t always quite what they seem. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes usually involving the exchanging of goods or cash for exposure to influencers audiences. People are starting to question which influencers can be trusted, and which influencers are “shills” and whether it’s possible to give unbiased reviews when there’s money or free products involved. Now when that person says that a mascara is the best mascara in the world audiences feel a little suspicious. They’re got an incentive to lie. Do they really think that or are they being paid to say it?
While some influencers decided to address the situation and explain exactly what methods they were using to make money (affiliate links/codes, sponsorships, advertising etc) and how/why, others came out and said they would no longer participate in any of those revenue streams as they felt it was confusing for their audiences.
Advertisers began to get shunned by some influencers, and some influencers began to get shunned by their audiences for continuing to use in video/in photo advertising.
Rules came into play that meant that influencers could no longer sneakily promote a product that they were being paid to promote. It had to be declared, and that declaration had to be obvious to the audience. No hiding it away at the bottom of a wall of text, or using a cryptic looking hashtag that only those in the know would realise was code for advert.
These new rules started devaluing advertising with influencers. Audiences weren’t as likely to purchase a product an influencer promoted, because now they could clearly see that they were paid to promote it. No matter how much an influencer would claim that it was the best product in the whole wide world and they only advertise products that they truly love (which in some cases is probably true) it’s hard to believe when you know that someones being paid, and sometimes the exact figure they get relies on how many people end up purchasing because of that ad.
So, how does the fyre festival link in to all this? Why would it affect other influencers?
Seeing as influencers had already begun to lose their audiences trust, this is a huge spectacle of how much has changed within the industry (the fact that we can now even call it an industry shows how much things have changed!). People no longer feel like those pictures on instagram, or that makeup tutorial on youtube are being created by people “just like them”, now it all feels a bit more commercially driven.
Influencers don’t come across as people next door when they’re getting thousands of pounds of makeup sent to them from PR companies, or trips to fancy locations all expenses paid with tonnes of free gifts included, or the latest gadgets so they can do a review before the products even hit the market. They’ve become some kind of celebrity, the opposite of what most people loved about social media and user created content.
Now the speculation of exactly how much the influencers got paid to promote the Fyre Festival has been leaked, people are quickly realising that a lot of influencers will promote anything for a price. Let’s be honest, when you hear that someone got paid 250k which is well over what the average person is making a year it’s easy to understand why someone would agree to promote something whether they liked it or not. That’s the problem, the amounts of money aren’t peanuts, it’s big bucks. It’s the kind of figures that even audience members question whether or not they would have done the same in that situation.
Is it Over?
2017 is a tough year. Youtubes been making some pretty dramatic changes and is currently in some sort of free fall where no one can really predict what is going to happen seeing as the whole advertiser boycott is ongoing. That coupled with the new 10k lifetime views before channels can be monetised is scaring off newer creators, not to mention the restricted mode totally blanking out certain influencers content.
Then there’s all the algorithm changes that Instagram has put in place, along with the ghostblocking which has creators up in arms about their content not getting seen. Now the Fyre Festival is shining a bigger light on Instagram influencers leaving people wondering whether it’s really social media anymore or just a way for people to advertise products to us with overly photoshopped photos.
There really is no way to know what the next few months will bring but it’s not looking that bright and shiny from here.
What do you all think is going to happen? Are we about to see the collapse of these social media empires or is it all going to blow over in a couple of months?